When I attended IFBC in past years, I was immediately drawn to sessions that I was familiar with and wanted to learn more about, such as wine tasting, photography, or writing. But this year, one of my goals at IFBC was to attend sessions on topics that were unfamiliar to me, which made for some challenging decisions, specially when there were so many diverse topics to choose from. But two session that were at the top of my list where actually very much connected:
- Food Waste & The Next Generation of Cooks
- Why Insects are the Next Superfood that will Save the Planet
In the food waste session, there was much discussion on the situation in California, where we’ve been suffering thought a drought the past four years. Since 80% of California’s water consumption is used in agriculture, it directly follows that wasting food is also wasting water. But the problem of course is nationwide, where 25-40% of our food supply is wasted. If this food waste ends up in a landfill, then it becomes of source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The big question is: why do we have food waste at all? For those in the audience who plan meals, only purchase what they are going to cook, eat leftovers, and compost, it might not seem like a problem. But if we can reduce food waste by even 5% then 4 million people will be fed. To the speakers, the key was education, from programs that start at the school level, and chef’s that practice social responsibility and lead by example.
How is food waste connected to the session on insects? Simple. No matter how frugal we become as cooks, and how much we reduce food waste, one day we will run out of food, such as meat. Therefore, we need to start looking at other food sources to supply us with the nutrition and proterin that we need. The answer, according to the speakers from the University of Davis, was this: insects are the next superfood and they will save our planet.
One simple reason is efficiency. It takes a much larger amount of energy, food, and water to house and feed and animal that we are then going to kill and cook. Compared to traditional livestock, insects produce less waste, take up less land, eat less food, don’t produce greenhouse gasses. If we know that eating insects can be better for the environment while providing us with the nutrition we need, what’s the problem? To many, the challenge is how to make insects palatable.
In many countries and cultures around the world, eating insects is a part of life. Villages in the countryside don’t have access to supermarkets, so they eat what their land has to offer. But to prove their point, the presenters from the University of Davis prepared a snack for us — dry roasted grasshopper tostada with a black bean purée. The actual grasshopper was hiding beneath some micro-greens garnish, but you can’t hide the crunch and the taste of an insect.
But maybe the point is not to hide the insect, rather make it the star of the dish. After all, some of the best chefs in the world such as Rene Redzepi, Alex Atala, and Enrique Olvera all prepare dishes with ants at their award winning restaurants. They don’t hide the ants, they make it the star of the dish. Perhaps that is the first step: appreciating your ingredient for all it has to offer, and showing the world that it can look and taste delicious. A nice glass of wine probably won’t hurt either.
As an active food blogger, I was eligible for a discount during conference registration and in exchange I promised to write three blog posts on a subject of my choice related to IFBC 2016. This is the second of three posts about my weekend adventures at IFBC 2016 in Sacramento.